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Technology and the C-suite: Changes in the new world of work

by Teresa Meek
 
From big data to cloud implementation to new security threats, today’s businesses are bombarded with change. How can leaders manage it?

Technology has become an integral part of a company’s business strategy, and it changes faster than ever.

​In the past, technology change was implemented from on high. If employees grumbled, that was their problem. But in today’s world of instant feedback, social media, and company-review sites, that top-down attitude no longer works.

Need evidence of the change? Look no further than the C-suite, where technology’s growing influence has resulted in new C-suite titles like CTO (chief technology officer), CDO (chief digital officer) and CSO (chief security officer). These executives, along with the CIO and the CMO, must find ways of implementing change in their organization in order to keep up with the competition and ­without alienating employees and customers.

It isn’t easy, and how they manage change will depend on their role, the size of the company, and the nature of the change. Here are some general guidelines today’s corporate officers are following to successfully steer their companies towards the next century.
 

Expanding the role of technology in C-suite decisions

In the past, there was just one technology officer, the CIO. The role was mostly technical: set up an internal network and keep it running smoothly. But as information management and cloud computing continue to gain importance, the IT role has changed, growing more complex.

Hence, the CTO and CSO came into being.

Instead of running existing systems and providing security — functions now exported to the cloud — today’s technology officers play an important role in change management, working with other executives to determine when it’s time to acquire new technology and to implement it with as little disruption and as much security as possible.

When implementing technology changes, leaders need to consider the impact of said change on a wide variety of channels, from office PCs and virtual servers to customers using mobile devices and social media strategies. They also need to work closely with the CFO — not just to stay on budget, but to bridge silos between IT and other departments.

As the Internet of Things gains momentum, those occupying the CIO/CTO/CSO role will have even more changes to deal with. As Tech Data CIO John Tonnison said, “The CIO’s job is change management. To do it poorly is fatal.”
 

Managing change has changed

In the past, technology change was implemented from on high. If employees grumbled, that was their problem. But in today’s world of instant feedback, social media, and company-review sites, that top-down attitude no longer works.

The best course for technology executives is to communicate with their employees about changes in advance, get their feedback after implementation, and be willing to make modifications when possible. Not only will doing so make your teams feel more involved in the company’s changes and help establish a more collaborative culture, but it can also lead to more productive teams.

Another thing that makes technology changes slightly easier is that, on a day-to-day level, changes are incremental. Developers are releasing products more rapidly, then refining and fixing them through updates.

But even minor changes can drive employees crazy, especially when they contain bugs, as new releases usually do. Preparation and testing are essential.
 

Customer-facing change: The CMO

Managing technology change is no longer the sole purview of the IT department. Today, marketing is getting into the game.

The ability to collect data about customers and interact with them through websites and social media has profoundly changed the way marketers operate — and expanded their technology budget.

Gartner predicts that by 2017, the average CMO will spend more on technology than the average CIO.

Is your company ready to move forward with confidence?

How is your C-suite doing at managing issues from big data to cloud implementation to new security threats?
 
Today’s marketing officers have over a thousand software providers to choose from. They’re selecting not only CRM and marketing automation platforms, but also specialized providers of content for blogs, websites and social media channels.

Their choices matter. Attracting and retaining customers is no longer a matter of bombarding large groups with ads and hoping to get as many conversions as possible. Data analytics enables marketers to target audience segments with laser-like precision. Having the right tools to do that can make or break a company’s reputation and growth plans.

Customers expect messages, digital or otherwise, to be personalized and tailored to fit the media they frequent, whether that’s Twitter, a blog, or a news site.

And CEOs expect marketing officers to stay on top of trends and justify their increased spending with results that demonstrate ROI.

In many ways, technology has turned today’s C-suite into a pressure cooker. But it also gives executives the chance to experiment with ideas and platforms that didn’t exist a decade ago — or even last month. If managed correctly, each one has the potential to lead the company in a new direction.
 
 
Teresa Meek
Teresa Meek is a Seattle-based writer with 15 years’ experience in journalism. She has covered business, technology, health and culture, and has written for the Miami Herald, Newsday, the Baltimore Sun, and the Seattle Times. She has also worked with a number of corporate clients, including Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, JPMorgan Chase, and Microsoft.